What is the purpose of the umbilical cord during pregnancy? This is a question many women ask during their first doctor’s appointment early in the first trimester.
The umbilical cord is the source of oxygen and nourishment to your baby while they are in the womb. As long as the umbilical cord is working properly, then your baby should be able to get enough nourishment to continue to grow until the end of the third trimester when you go into labor.
The umbilical cord is attached to the placenta which is attached to the uterine wall and working fully to sustain your baby by the beginning of the second trimester. The umbilical cord is attached to your baby through a hole in your baby’s stomach which later becomes your baby’s belly button. At birth the umbilical cord will be clamped and cut off near your baby’s stomach in a painless procedure, where the stump of the umbilical cord will eventually dry up and fall off, sometime within 10-21 days.
Once your baby has been born and the umbilical cord has been cut, you must be sure to keep the stump of the cord still attached to your baby clean and dry at all times. Some newborn diapers are made with a cut out in them for the belly button so that the diapers don’t touch the umbilical cord. If your diapers do not have this cut out, be sure to fold down the top of the diaper some, so that the umbilical cord can remain free of the moisture of your baby’s diaper. Until the stub falls off you should not emerge your baby in water, instead giving him just sponge baths as needed.
As for cleaning of the umbilical cord, the pediatricians are now split on the best way to do this. For a long time it was told to new parents to clean the area with rubbing alcohol, and believed that the alcohol helps the cord dry up. Now some believe that if you leave it alone, it will dry faster because the rubbing alcohol kills ALL of the bacteria, including the bacteria that helps the umbilical cord heal and fall off. If you are unsure what you should do, call the baby’s doctor.
Normally infection around the umbilical cord stump is not an issue, however sometimes it can happen. There are several signs that your baby might have an infection. If you see any of them be sure to call the doctor and have your child seen. Signs of umbilical cord infection include the area around the navel becoming red, swollen or pussy especially at the base of the stump. You child might also develop a fever that has no other known cause.
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